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Protestors say Walmart will ruin Chinatown culture and local businesses

By Michael Katz
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at 05:22PM
Michael Katz / KPCC

Glenn Kinball shows his disdain for Walmart. Protestors said the company does not properly pay employees.

Chants of “No Walmart” rang clear in Chinatown Wednesday afternoon as dozens of protestors rallied to stop the building of proposed store on the corner of Caesar Chavez and Grand.

The new Walmart store is designed to be just 33,000 square-feet on the ground floor of a residential complex for seniors. This would make it a “Neighborhood Store” rather than one of its typical big box super centers.

Still, Chinatown residents feel that the things they love about the community will be severely hurt by the store. Protesters, armed with signs reading “Walmart-How the 1% hurts 99%” lined up behind several speakers, including congresswoman Judy Chu, who spoke of the havoc that Walmart is bound to bring Chinatown residents and the community.

“Because Walmart is able to get its low prices and sell its cake for $1.99, [nearby] businesses will go out of business,” Chu predicted. She suggested that instead of a Walmart Neighborhood Store, a grocery store would be more practical for an area that is sorely lacking a nearby supermarket.

“Of course I think that there is a need for a grocery store, and I think that there should have been a more extensive search and incentives to try and get one in there,” Chu said. “Walmart has this global empire and they have been able to exploit people all across the world.”

Girshriela Green, a Walmart employee for the past three-and-a-half years, said that while such a large business would provide jobs for people, they are not jobs that pay enough for one to successfully live off of. As a manager of the health and beauty section of her store, she said that she makes just $9.80 an hour. She says that she cannot afford to leave, though, and will reluctantly keep working there.

“We’re still dependent on welfare, food stamps, and we work,” Green explained. “Yet, we still don’t make ends meet … They sell dreams that’s not real. It’s not the American way.”

Tanira Chau, 18, who has been a resident of Chinatown her entire life, said that part of what makes the neighborhood great is its close-knit feeling and the fact that everyone shops together at local stores.

“Growing up here, it’s very much like a close family because all the kids go to school together, and so we go to all the same shops, same supermarkets,” Chau said. “If Walmart’s here, it’s like ‘Let’s just go to Walmart and get something’ … it’s bringing our culture down.”

Satitthuvamon Tolrat, who works at the Sorrento liquor store just down the street from where the Walmart Neighborhood Store is planned to go, said the store he works at could suffer greatly.

“They will come here and hurt all the businesses around here,” Tolrat said. “We are the mom-and-pop stores and they are the big chain. They have more power for inventory and sell [products] cheaper. But we can’t compete with them.”

Another protest is planned for June 30 at 10 a.m. at the Los Angeles Historic Park. Several thousand are expected to attend.

The rally comes on the same day that Walmart announced it will give an $800,000 grant to the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. The grant is set to provide 447 jobs for local youth during the summer.

“We know that providing access to job opportunities and skills training during the summer months will allow students to return to school healthy, prepared and ready to succeed,” Walmart Foundation president Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.


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